COVID-19 School Guidelines
It seems that each day brings new information to consider as schools approach the start of the new school year. Through this process HCA has stood beside our decision to begin face-to-face instruction on August 12th. It was announced recently that public and private schools could not begin face-to-face instruction until after Labor Day. At first it looked as though we would have to comply with this as well, but then religious private schools received some great news that we at HCA considered a victory HCA and our families. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released a letter of guidance exempting religious private schools from the local mandates that required that all private schools be closed for in-person school for the beginning of the school year. This Attorney General opinion allows us to begin face-to-face instruction as we see fit. Thus, enabling HCA to be move forward with face-to-face learning on August 12th!
We have outlined much of the detailed information you will need to consider as families consider the best educational choice for their families. Please keep in mind, some of the following information could change based on new information or orders that actually do apply to HCA. Our hope is that things will be less restrictive in the next several weeks or so. Any new information will be updated as soon as it is available.
All after-school type activities/family nights, homecoming dance, etc., excluding athletics, for students and families have been canceled for the Fall semester unless it can be accomplished virtually. After-school activities for students and families will be considered again for the Spring with communication to families before the end of the Fall semester.
Although the State Fair is canceled, we will still have the day as a student holiday, and that will remain on the school calendar.
HCA will be a closed campus to all visitors this year. This means, parents, volunteers, extended family members, etc. will only be allowed to enter the building to conduct school business in the Front Office, but will not be allowed in the student areas. Unfortunately, this includes chapel visitors and lunch visitors. Masks will be required for all visitors.
Currently, HCA is required to follow Executive Order GA-29 that mandates masks for anyone 10 years of age or older. Until Governor Abbott changes this order, HCA must comply. If and when it becomes voluntary, updates to our guidelines will be made.
Screening Guidelines and Questions
It is important to remember that schools are required to exclude students with certain illness from school for periods of time according to state rules. Parents will be instructed not to send their child to school if they have a fever (measured temperature of 100°F) or higher, diarrhea, or symptoms of a contagious illness.
Parents are instructed to ensure they do not send a child to school if the child has COVID-19 symptoms or is lab-confirmed with COVID-19. However, these students will receive remote instruction until the below conditions for re-entry are met.
Students or parents are required to report to the Front Office, or school nurse, BEFORE arriving at school, if:
1. they had close contact with an individual who has tested COVID-19 positive, or
2. if they themselves have any symptoms of COVID-19.
People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from no symptoms to mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.
HCA will use the following guidelines for student, staff and visitor screening purposes:
— Fever (measured temperature of 100°F or higher)
— Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
— New loss of taste or smell
— Sore throat
— Congestion or runny nose
— Feeling feverish (chills, shaking, complains of having a fever)
— Muscle or body aches
— Nausea or vomiting
If a student has any of the symptoms listed above, the parents are instructed to keep their child at home and to contact the school’s Front Office or school nurse for exclusion and readmission criteria.
All HCA staff will be required to follow the above guidelines and self-screen each morning before arriving at school. A procedure is in place to continue instruction for students should a staff member need to self-quarantine.
Confirmed or Suspected COVID Cases
If there is a confirmed or suspected case, HCA will immediately begin a deep cleaning protocol in all areas where the specific student or staff member has been while on campus. A decision will be made regarding the need to close a classroom, a building (elementary or secondary), or the entire campus for a period of time. This will be a decision made at that time and with the information pertaining to the specifics of the situation. Student and staff safety are the highest priority in making the decision.
Therefore, the following guidelines will also be followed:
1. If an individual who has been in a school is lab-confirmed to have COVID-19, HCA will notify the local health authority, in accordance with applicable federal, state and local laws and regulations, including confidentiality requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
2. HCA will close off areas that are heavily used by the individual with the lab-confirmed case (student, teacher, or staff) until the non-porous surfaces in those areas can be disinfected, unless more than 3 days have already passed since that person was on campus.
2. Consistent with school notification requirements for other communicable diseases, and consistent with legal confidentiality requirements, HCA will notify all teachers, staff, and families of all students in a school if a lab-confirmed COVID-19 case is identified among students, teachers or staff who participate in any on campus activities.
Return to School
In the case of an individual who was diagnosed with COVID-19, such individuals may return to school when all the following criteria are met. (In the case of an individual who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 related and who has not been evaluated by a medical professional or tested for COVID-19, the individual is assumed to have COVID-19.)
1. At least three days (72 hours) have passed since recovery (resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications).
2. The individual has improvement in symptoms (for example: cough, shortness of breath).
3. At least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
4. The individual must obtain a medical professional’s note clearing the individual for return based on an alternative diagnosis or receive two separate confirmations at least 24 hours apart that they are free of COVID via acute infection tests at an approved COVID-19 testing location found at https://tdem.texas.gov/covid-19/.
In case of a close contact for a staff member or student, appropriate notification will take to the appropriate group of staff members, parents/guardians, and public health agencies, while maintaining confidentiality to the degree possible.
HCA is developing a virtual learning plan that will be enacted if the need arises. If we must close school for a period longer than a few days, we will be ready with a robust virtual learning experience for our students. If a single staff, or student must be quarantined, HCA will also have a plan for virtually including them in the day-to-day class experience with their peers to the extent possible.
It is important to note once again, some details of this plan may change if HCA receives new information, or if we are duly mandated by the Governor or County Judge to follow a specific guideline. Our prayer is that guidelines become less and less restrictive, but HCA will be prepared if that does not prove to be the case.
For an overview of what we anticipate the “new normal” school day to look like for the 2020-2021 school year, please go to our School Day Procedure page.
Nothing surprises God! He has a plan that includes HCA actively fulfilling its mission of providing a Christ Centered, Family Focused, College Preparatory education to our students. The importance what we do has never been more evident than in these times.